Given the unrivalled scale of its all encapsulating allure, it comes as little surprise to see that the World Cup has inspired a vast array of creatives to abandon their daily duties and launch into ambitious projects to toast the globe’s favourite tournament. One such creative is Los Angeles-based illustrator and artist Noah MacMillan.
The task of producing 32 bespoke collages in a matter of days seems like an enormous one but having made his name working with clients that include Major League Soccer, The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine and Stella Artois, this series was a walk in the park for a man who dearly adores every opportunity to produce art inspired by the beautiful game.
Wielding an idiosyncratic style that freely blends elements from both physical and digital art to create beautiful vivid collages inspired by every one of the nations competing at the 2018 World Cup, Noah explained to These Football Times where his project originated and the processes he has developed throughout his professional career.
With the World Cup as your living source of inspiration, it seems like a fantastic idea in theory to produce artworks for 32 nations. There’s no denying, however, it can prove to be a huge undertaking. What about the World Cup was it that inspired your project? Was it born from a steadily building excitement for the tournament or the desire to run with one persisting style across many different pieces?
“As an American soccer fan, most of the time it feels like I’m living with my own private hysteria but for one month every four years, the rest of the country joins me in losing their minds over the game. The World Cup is loud, colourful, chaotic, inspiring, and totally corrupt. Above all, it’s a huge global party. I wanted to try to translate that energy into a series of illustrations.
“As an artist, I love to set myself a goal of working out a new style over a series of pieces. I’ve been using x-acto knives since I was a teenager, which began with making graffiti stencils. I love the direct, unfussy quality you get. There’s no shading or erasing, just bold blocky shapes.
“Recently I’ve been experimenting with combining these sorts of cut-paper collage images with overlaid line drawings. I thought the range of teams for the tournament would be a great opportunity to push this style in a new direction.”
Tell us a little about the process behind making your pieces for the project and how you chose which player and what national motifs will represent each nation? Furthermore, does this project, with its bold colours and collage elements, represent a departure from your usual style, means of art-making or content?
“For each piece, I started by making a cut-paper collage based on something iconic about the country or team in focus. Some were pulled from a nickname, like the Three Lions or Super Eagles, others were based around architecture, a royal crest or badge, flag, or whatever I could find that might lead to a fun, dramatic image.
“I would then produce a line drawing based on a star player where I’d simplify their likeness as much as possible while still conveying their inherent individuality. This was hard and, naturally, some were more successful than others. That’s just the nature of any daily project, though. For most of the teams, I immediately knew which players I was excited about watching this summer, but there were plenty of others that I had to read up on — quick, off the top of your head, who is the best player for Tunisia? This made for an interesting challenge.
“I combined my cut paper and line drawings in Adobe Illustrator which gave me the flexibility to colour them however I wanted and to tweak the layouts. I love having the option of using the computer as a tool to finish a piece but I rarely feel like I make anything interesting on the computer. Usually I’m creating elements by hand in a variety of ways and then compiling and editing them digitally.”
With every one of the tournament’s participants now expertly represented across your papercut project, are there any plans to commemorate the tournament’s best matches, controversial moments or World Cup winners with additional pieces? Maybe a move into domestic football beyond the tournament?
“I’m not sure If I’ll be continuing this project beyond the initial set of 32 teams but I’ll certainly be making lots more work related to the game. Folks can follow me on Twitter or Instagram for updates on new work.”
Can fans of the project expect to be able to adorn their homes or offices with prints or perhaps even originals any time soon, and are there any previous projects of yours that fans of this particular series would enjoy finding?
“I’ve been really grateful for the positive feedback I’ve received on this project. It certainly made it easier to keep the momentum through every nation. I have made all of the pieces available as prints in a variety of sizes. These Football Times readers might also get a kick out of this series of DIY Stadiums that I designed for folks to print out and construct at home. I have a whole range of other projects to be found on my website too.
By Will Sharp @shillwarp
Thanks to Noah MacMillan for speaking to These Football Times as part of The Gallery. If you’re an artist for whom football remains the ultimate muse, and you’d like to feature in The Gallery, please email us with examples of your work.